Latin literature VIII: Novel Posted by on Mar 29, 2012 in Latin Language, Roman culture


The novel was a minor genre cultivated late. In Rome Petronius with his Satyricon (1st century AD.) and Apuleius with his Golden Ass (2nd century AD.) had a great influence on posterity.

With Satyricon Petronius got a totally new and original work, which suited well to the tastes of the time and perfectly represented the skeptical and epicurean spirit of its author. As a whole is a work difficult to classify, we can recognize features of different genres, but none of them explain in full the whole work. From a linguistic point of view, The Satyricon is a document of extraordinary value. All literary tones are quite mixed matching with the theme narrated and the characterization of the characters. The comic passages alternate with the tragic, and purely mocking passages are followed by others of great pathetism.

It is difficult to find evidence of the influence of Petronius in later literature. From the sixteenth century, more towards the end of it, seems to begin to circulate in Europe successive editions of the known fragments of Satyricon.

Apuleius’ Golden Ass style earned unanimous praise from antiquity to the present day. Its language is strongly baroque and rhetoric, for this reason is perhaps is somewhat strange to contemporary tastes. Artificiality and verbal extravagance are characteristic of Apuleius, who shared these features with the other great authors of the second century AD. Apuleius’ novel is an important example of the style of the time.

The influence of the novel of Apuleius from the Renaissance has been very important. In the Italian Renaissance we have to emphasize its influence on Boccaccio, who expressed interest in the novel of Apuleius himself transcribing the manuscript of Monte Casino. It must also highlight the importance of the Golden Ass in the development of the Spanish picaresque novel: its influence is seen in the Lazarillo de Tormes and Guzmán by Mateo Alemán. It also important the influence on Western literature that had the fable of Cupid and Psyche, we find its influence on Boccaccio, Calderón and La Fontaine. The modern German literature gave special attention to the myth of Cupid and Psyche and their visual representations.


In later times, in the 5th century, in Rome appeared the anonymous work History of Apollonius King of Tyre. This work was influential in the early romance novels, as in Spanish Apollonius book, which is an adaptation made in 13th century.


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